Fairness - Professional values

The importance of fairness in engineering, and a case study.

What is the fairest way to approach the allocation of a resource such as radio bandwidth?

As an engineer your decisions will have an impact on a variety of different groups of people.  These stakeholders could include your employers, other engineers (including other members of the IET), other colleagues, customers and the public at large.  As a professional you have a duty to treat all of these people fairly. 

It is sometimes difficult to identify exactly who will be affected by a particular decision, and what their interests are.  Taking a wide view of your work and its place in society will allow you to balance your responsibilities to various groups, and to make optimal decisions based on all of the information available.  Engineers need to consider fairness when:

  • Distributing resources;
  • Dealing with employees/subordinates and other colleagues;
  • Interacting with customers;
  • Taking decisions with implications for equality and diversity.

Being fair is not simply a matter of treating everybody as having an equal stake.  Sometimes decisions will affect some stakeholders disproportionately, and some groups will have rights which must be protected even at the expense of others’ interests.  An engineer will sometimes be subjected to conflicting pressures and will need to exercise professional judgement in balancing the interests of different groups.

The case study on fairness looks at a situation where engineers had to exercise judgement in order to treat a number of different stakeholders as fairly as possible.

You can also see which Rules of Conduct are relevant to fairness.